Our family has been re-born. Tonight we had a religious-like experience: we discovered homemade pasta.
Last birthday the kids gave me an invitation to our newly discovered cult; a gift voucher to attend a Life’s a Feast cooking class. Not at all fazed by this slight upon my cooking, I happily attended a pasta making class taught by Gail Rast. The class was fun and my fellow students were lovely but, to be honest, I never thought I would have the time or interest to make my own pasta.
My girlfriend, Jenny, was a hoarder. I like to think I changed her life by encouraging her to de-clutter her house (I am a huge fan of feng shui) but the reality is, she was ready to do it. Thus, I was shocked when she phoned to say a pasta maker had been found in her kitchen cupboard and she didn’t remember purchasing it! I was shocked because it got past me on our ruthless clean out of her home.
Whilst disappointed with my poor feng shui abilities, Jenny’s suggestion of a pasta-making day to celebrate the new find sounded perfect – a chance to gossip with my friend and make dinner (giving the Slow Chef a night off).
I gathered ingredients as per my Life’s a Feast menu: fresh egg pasta with 2 sauces, puttanesca and pesto. With a mass of basil growing in our garden, the pesto sauce had been prepared earlier, and stored in the freezer.
Fresh egg pasta is literally just eggs and “00” flour, a very fine plain flour found on the top shelf in the supermarket baking section. As we keep our own chooks, eggs are in abundance: mix 1 egg to 100g “00” flour, per serve.
I grew up in a large family; mum, dad and 5 kids. My brothers are huge at 6′ 7″ a piece, and we were all quite athletic. As a result, Mum and Dad cooked on a massive scale and I seem to be stuck in the bulk-baking mold. So, when a recipe calls for 1 egg and 100g flour per person I expect the recipe creator to be thinking of “normal” families, not mine. I therefore automatically double the quantities. As a result, I ended up with a ball of pasta dough the size of an AFL football. You don’t have to do this. Be sensible. 1 egg and 100g flour per person is plenty.
Jenny and I kneaded our pasta dough and set it to rest for 30 minutes whilst we prepared the puttenesca sauce (which apparently means prostitute in Italian and I therefore assumed, when questioned in Gail’s class, to be something to do with the anchovies. I was wrong.) Puttenesca sauce is a tomato-based sauce with olives, anchovies, capers and chillies. With the sauce simmering on the stove, we tried to roll the pasta. For the life of us we could not get the pasta to emerge from the base of the roller. Where was it going? There is not a lot to these machines, so playing “hide the dough” seemed a bit of a stretch. It turned out a panel at the base of the roller was loose and was happily gathering the dough for itself on the underside of the machine.
With a huge pile of pasta dough to be rolled and no machine, I jumped on the phone to Gibsons, our local homewares store. They had 2 machines in stock, so a quick car trip saw me grab the better quality of the two; an Italian (it’s got to be good for pasta, right?) Marcato Atlas 15o. At $139 it was pricey but the rollers were stainless steel compared with the $49 machine that had aluminium rollers and looked plain dodgy (just like the one that has stolen our dough at Jenny’s place.
Together we rolled, folded, rolled, folded, (times 6) then rolled, rolled, rolled until we had strips of silky translucent pasta that we cut into lasagne sheets. Jenny had also made double quantity and after an hour and a half we had only made her batch! We both had to get back to work (we do have jobs) so I head home to finish making my pasta with the help of Junior Slow Chef, Holly, that evening.
Holly and I had a great time rolling dough, reciting lines from Angry Boys and laughing our heads off (Nathan. NATHAN!) The long strips of pasta were then passed through the fettuccini cutter, tossed in semolina to stop the strands sticking and layed on a wire rack ready for cooking. The fresh patsa takes only a few minutes to cook in salted boiling water. We tossed the cooked pasta in the 2 separate sauces and served.
The result: a unanimous 9 out of 10! We have discovered food heaven thanks to Gail at Life’s a Feast and our new Atlas 150.